The Parish Room at the House of Blues was vivid last night with the sweet stink of smokey joints and the vibrant lights of the Wednesday rap revolution, as Despot kicked things off with a little bit of impressive wordsmithing and a dash of crowd-controlled aerobics. In the back of the stage floated a mesmerizing robotic sultan death lord DJ, hidden underneath a space-age transformers mask above the dim glow of a couple Mac computers, and as he threw down the beats, Despot threw out the lyrics and prepped the crowd for the upcoming slew of silvered-tongued rappers.
Next came the burly vocal machine, Mr. eXquire, who encouraged a large portion of the audience to join in the mayhem as he yelled to us, “White people, don’t be afraid of this song.” And then the heavy raunch began, propelled by eXquire’s solemn advice for everyone to light up their weed, and plumes of smoke transcended the hot Parish Room air. The set was invigorating to say the least, and yet again the crowd found themselves in perfect, rowdy anticipation for the upcoming acts.
Then came the heavy, heavy push of heart-felt poetics by Killer Mike, whose songs were, for the most part, founded in the strength of political animosity and human brotherhood. After giving a sincere shout out to New Orleans, including a dignified toast to Soldier Slim (R.I.P.), Killer Mike got right to business. He started with a couple intense tracks for his newest album, R.A.P., and with the crowd throwing their arms in the air and shouting along, Mike got into a sickly, roaring rendition of “I ain’t never scared.” Then came the emotional, anti-political campaign, as the lord of the stage held his hand high and gave Ronald Reagan the finger, prompting the abiding audience to do the same. “Y’all ready to wild out?” he asked, and with a animated clamoring of affirmation, Killer Mike carried the night like the pro that he is until it was time to hand the revolutionary baton over.
In the wake of a Killer Mike-induced CRUNK, the crowd was steady and ready as El-P came to the stage and commenced to drop explosive raids of bass and lyrical enigmas. And I’m talking about B-A-S-S, the kind of rumble that shakes and tickles the vocal cords, which was the exact kind that El-P’s alien invasion act warranted. With multiple digital control centers on stage, comprised of Moogs and Nords and glowing Macs and iPads, the set was based in not only poetics, but in a sharp and thriving execution of instrumental intrigue. Blasting some gnarly tracks from his latest album, Cancer for Cure, including a performance of his futuristic motion-maker “Full Retard,” El-P ransacked the crowd with his urban war cries, yanking cheers and swaying arms from the mass. In the end, the night was a complete triumph of cultural coalition, and the prophetic words hanging above the stage – “United in Diversity” – rang true.